What’s There To Be Thankful For Anyway?

What’s There To Be Thankful For Anyway?

Some days I struggle with that sign.

The one that hangs on the wall just inside our front door.

“In Everything Give Thanks” it reads, painted on a simple wood plank.

My friend, Dana, gave me that sign about six years ago, a reminder of a time when things weren’t feeling so thank-y around here.

A reminder of a time when something that seemed bad at first, turned out to be rather awesome, something indeed to be thankful for.

I don’t know about you, Dear Reader. Maybe you came out of the womb wise and grateful, but I’ve had to do a lot of learning on my end.

There was that time in my 20’s when a long-term boyfriend dumped me for another girl.

My friend’s mom, Lee, piped in with “Won’t it be interesting to see how this all turns out?”


How dare she minimize my pain?

How dare she root for any outcome besides the one I decided was best?

Alas, the end of that relationship gave me the courage and energy to propel my career forward, which is what took me to CNN.

And if you really want to fast-forward, to my husband and kids.

Score one for now 83-year-old, Lee. Turns out the way that chapter worked out was indeed interesting, to say the least. Something to be very thankful for.

And score one for the sign.

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

Not that it’s not taking a lifetime of lessons for a simple truth to sink in.

I walked in the house the other day and looked up at the sign.

Less you think I’m a complete, zen being, I will tell you this—I cursed that sign.

My challenge this Thanksgiving season is not to be thankful for the easy stuff—husband, kids, home, pets, good health.

I got that one down.

It’s the hard stuff.

Thank you for the book agent who told me this week he hated my first novel so much he didn’t even offer up any suggestions or revisions?

I’m working on that “Thank you” note.

Even bigger—thank you for the test results that seem to show my mom will be facing some big health challenges?

Honestly, the gratitude for that news is stuck in my throat.

I can tell you this–I’m thankful for you, Dear Reader.

You, who will give thanks for your easy blessings this week.

You, who are also trying to make sense of news and outcomes you would’ve never picked.

You who in your own way are trying to grow into the sign.

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

I know because of the email you send to me each week sharing your own challenges and triumphs.

The way you let me share my life on this page each week.

For each and every one of you, I do indeed give thanks.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Cancer Makes You Do Crazy Things

Cancer Makes You Do Crazy Things

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

10 years later I still can’t believe I did this.

But, I guess when your mother catches you keeping one of the biggest secrets of your life, you do as you’re told.

Rewind the tape to 2003 when President George W. Bush had declared the US would invade Iraq. If you remember correctly, he just didn’t say exactly when, which, it turns out, set up my predicament.

Over at CNN, where I was a long time news anchor I was one of those on standby to head to the Middle East as soon as we got the word. I had gone through what they call “War School” safety training.  My bags were packed. Everything was crossed off my “To Do” list.

Specifically on my “NOT To Do” list was tell my parents.

“Why worry them?” I decided after talking it over with my brother and sister.  Sure, I planned to tell them as I was boarding the plane, but why add the stress of not knowing when I would go?

They certainly had enough on their worry plates. Weeks into the waiting game, I found myself in Los Angeles where my father was in one hospital being treated for internal bleeding and my mother was about to have surgery for her recently diagnosed breast cancer.

That’s how my mom and I found ourselves in a hospital cafeteria,  making small talk, eating green jello and bad cole slaw the night before her surgery.

Somehow we got talking about the upcoming war. I thought I was so smooth keeping it to politics and generalities.

That’s when my mother looked me straight in the eye and busted me, “You’re going, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?” I replied digging down for my best denial.

“When the war starts, CNN is sending you to cover it. Aren’t they?”

I was more busted than a teenager breaking curfew. I spilled everything.

“Yes, I’ve been trained. Yes, I’m standing by. Yes, I didn’t tell you.  But if you don’t want me to go, I won’t.”

My mother got very quiet. Paused for what seemed like a century.

“What are you going to wear?” she asked.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“What are you going to wear? I mean what are the ladies wearing to war these days? Blazers? Leather jackets?  I know! Let’s go shopping!”

“Shopping?” I said. “Dad’s upstairs in a hospital bed. You’re having breast cancer surgery tomorrow and you want to go shopping?”

“Look,” she explained. “I can’t control what happens with my surgery. God knows I can’t control your father.  But I can control what my kid looks like on international television. You’ll do me the greatest favor—let’s go shopping.”

That’s how I ended up in the stores the night before my mother’s surgery. Cancer makes you do crazy things.  I still have the khaki pants, leather jacket and bright shirts “for a splash of color” we picked out that night.  They were perfect.

It’s been 10 years since breast cancer came into our family. 10 years since I reported the start of the war. My life these days is hardly so glamorous.  Jeans and a t shirt cover 99% of my wardrobe requirements as a wife, mother, and columnist.

My mom? 10 years later, she’s still at it.

A large envelope arrived in the mail the other day.  Inside was a pretty red dress.  It’s something I could wear to a fancy dinner party or anchor a newscast.

“Mom, I have nowhere to wear this dress,” I protested.

“You’ll do me the biggest favor,” she said. “You’ll keep it.  It makes me happy to think you have something in your closet should an opportunity arise.”

You know what happened.

I kept the red dress.

Gratitude makes you do crazy things.

10 extra years of having my mom around because doctors caught her breast cancer early.

I’m so glad about that.

And that is no secret.

When I Used To Be Someone

When I Used To Be Someone

Whoa! This column got a huge response. I’ve received more email than I have in a long time. Feel free to comment at the bottom. And please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Dayton Daily News.


All I really wanted was a manicure. Really, just about a half-hour to myself, a trim of some nasty hangnails and a couple coats of pretty light pink nail polish. “Bubble Bath,” I read on the bottom of the bottle once I got out my reading glasses.

            What I wasn’t expecting was a punch in the gut.

            “This is Daryn Kagan,” the shop owner said the manicurist doing my nails. “She used to be someone.”

            There you have it. The punch in the gut.

            I remember thinking, “I know where she’s going with this. I used to be a national news anchor on CNN.”  So, in that respect I guess, I did use to be someone, someone who I am not anymore.

            I suspect I’m not alone. I think there are a lot of us out there who used to be someone. Someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, some big job that’s no longer ours.

            Losing my job a few years back—that was not my choice.

            Not continuing to pursue a career where I got paid to talk about doom and gloom every single day—that was a conscious decision. And so, no, I am no longer someone. Well, not the shop owner’s someone, anyway.

            I think people like it when you fit into a single neat box. I rarely miss that, unless it’s a moment when people want to label you easily.

            “And now she is…?” the shop owner continued, eyebrows arched seeming to say, “help me here.” She might as well have said “And now she is dot dot dot.”

            I can connect the dots when somebody cares enough or has the time to really want to know. I’m now somebody’s wife and somebody’s mother. I squeeze in time to be a columnist, run a website and do a TV show called, “Bookmark.”  In other words, dot dot dot.

            It’s hard not to be someone anymore in the manicure shop. It was hard at the new dentist’s office the other day when I got to “Occupation” on the new patient form. What do you write when you’re not someone?

            I knew dentist didn’t care about my dot dot dots.  Certainly didn’t leave enough space for anything more than a single word. He just wanted to know if I had dental insurance. I do not. But I did when I was someone. Does that count?

            I will say this about all my dots—they fill my days and even more importantly, fill my heart.

            A lot of people feel the need to replace their big label with running out and getting another one.  Gotta go be someone.  I suspect I won’t be doing that, though there could be a few more dots in my future. 

            No, it’s not easy to explain who I am these days. But I know I’m happier and my life is more interesting than when I was someone.

            What about you?  Did you used to be someone? I’d love to hear about your dots.